The Group of Eight (Go8), comprising Australia’s leading research-intensive universities which undertake 70 percent of Australia’s university research has worked collaboratively with Government and the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (PJCIS) to ensure national security remains a priority in Australia’s higher education and research sector.
Go8 Chief Executive Vicki Thomson said the Go8’s commitment to Australia’s national security was unwavering.
“We are committed to protecting that which must be protected and being proactive to any potential threats, while safeguarding our place as world research leaders.
“Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the geopolitical situation for Australia and its universities has changed significantly and political tensions have created complexities that must be managed in the national interest. Working with Government and its security agencies, we have made significant progress in recent years to ensure we can meet any challenges this changing environment may present.
“The Go8 was a founding member of University Foreign Interference Taskforce (UFIT) and has played a central role in the development of the recently released, refreshed Guidelines to Counter Foreign interference in the Australian University Sector.
“Today’s comprehensive PJCIS report recognises the value of UFIT as the most appropriate body to manage foreign interference risks in the sector. Importantly the PJCIS has acknowledged that the issue of foreign interference is a ‘shared one for government and our universities and one that can only be improved by a cooperative and aligned approach from both.’
“Go8 universities have already adopted and implemented many of the recommendations made in the report, including recognition of the Government’s “Blueprint for Critical Technologies”. The Go8 worked closely with Government to develop the Critical Technologies List, providing detailed advice and expertise to identify key technologies and improve understanding of their impact.
“We note with concern the particular focus on membership of a foreign talent program, given comments made by ASIO Director-General Mike Burgess in October 2020, that “being a member of the Thousand Talents Program of itself is no problem… for me or Australia in general” and in light of the refreshed Guidelines.
“We also note the recommendation around Confucius Institutes and will continue to liaise with our members on the implications of this.
“The Go8 also looks forward to working closely with the Government regarding the adoption of any recommendations regarding research including the National Research Integrity Office, the ARC grants audit and development of appropriate penalties for non-compliance.